Hello Publishing, Meet the other side of Publishing

Over at the TeleRead blog, which reports on trends in the growing eBook market, editor Roger Sperberg recently posted a piece entitled “Why Do Publishers Need XML?” in which he thoughtfully examined the advantages that traditional book publishers could benefit from by adopting an XML mark-up.

I won’t reiterate his arguments here, most of which I agreed with, and suggest that instead you go read the article.

However one statement really caught my attention, Sperberg’s suggestion that book editors should learn XML as part of their job. His statement was that

“…that we (book publishers) can’t exploit (eBooks) until editors understand XML as well as English grammar, and regard metadata as valuable as a plug on Oprah.”

At face value a very valid point, but as I read through the article and the various comments attached to it, I suddenly realized there seemed to a complete lack of awareness that those skills already exist within a profession that understands a bit about publishing.

Here’s a little extract from my own comments.

“As for asking editors to learn XML, sure they need to be aware of it and its power – but there is a whole profession of people out there who already know about applying XML mark-up to content – the Technical Publications industry. Oh and a lot of them know about XSLT and XSL-FO too, and are skilled in the tools that use these standards.

And believe you me, for people who have spent years tagging things like aircraft manuals and software user guides, tagging a trade mass market book is not too great of a challenge.”

It is often said that traditional book publishing is dying, and a large part of that is because traditional publishers still see the physical book as the product, and not the content. But today content is king, and we need to make that content available across all platforms, and that means mark-up.

Does the salvation of the book publishing industry reside in the world of technical and business publishing? – It just might…

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